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Boigon, M. (1966). Discussion. Am. J. Psychoanal., 26(2):155-157.

(1966). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 26(2):155-157


Melvin Boigon, M.D.

We are indebted to Dr. Maslow for his contribution to this symposium. Using the specific symbol of the scientist, he has stated the dilemma of 20th-century man and suggested the solution for this dilemma. He puts in the foreground the questions of motivation and direction, whose origins, he assumes, are in our emotional life.

In earlier periods man lived with a feeling of optimism and hope for certainty. It was a period when man believed in himself and the work of his hands. Man had faith in the power of reason and science. He trusted his gods, and conceived his own capacity for growth as endless, and his widening horizons as limitless. Man imagined that ignorance alone stood in the way of his desire for ordering and making harmonious human nature and the universe so that “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men” would be a perpetual state.

Knowledge has spread. Science has provided for Western man undreamed of comfort and the promise of a vastly better life for increasing numbers of people. We have succeeded in accomplishing what our ancestors dreamed would provide the means for individual freedom, for abolishing wars, and for making all men brothers. Instead, men find themselves more isolated and anxious than ever. Man experiences himself with a deep sense of having been displaced, and thrown off balance as a subjective creator and power. It is as though, having entered the promised land, modern man finds himself still wandering through the same desert, but with this great difference: the greater awareness, that there is no other promised land to struggle toward.

For centuries man has operated on the assumption that the ultimate goal was the control of his environment, animate and inanimate, internal and external, to achieve a permanent state of pleasure and to avoid the state of pain. Maslow has referred to this in his book, Toward a Psychology of Being, as arising from D-cognition, i.e., the perceptions of the world from the point of view of deficiency needs of the individual. “D-cognition could be called selfish cognition, in which the world is organized into gratifiers and frustrators of our own needs, with other characteristics being ignored or slurred.”1 Having perceived the world in this way, due to an anxiety-producing climate, and having coped with a hostile environment by harnessing it, what has man found? The technology that has transformed his environment now threatens to destroy it. The complex social

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